Australian brand Argyle Hotels has been offering “Chinese hospitality with an Australian touch” to guests in the China market since 2004. Argyle International Airport Hotel Hongqiao’s general manager Geoffrey Howe talked to CHINA ECONOMIC REVIEW about his expectation for the country’s hotel market.
Q: How has Argyle Hotels made the transition to China?
A: Originally our sister company, Australian Institute of Tourism and Hospitality, signed a series of joint ventures with six Chinese universities to provide hotel training services and these are still going. Overall, Argyle has set up a tiered structure of brands with our top-level brand being Argyle Grand, then Argyle International. We also have Ausotel and Ausotel Inn brands, which are budget and economy brands. The first Ausotel is due to open this month in Qingdao.
Q: Does most of your staff come from these university training programs?
A: Not the majority. The schools do provide us with a basis, and we’re working with them to offer work placement opportunities and at the end of the course they will have a chance to apply for positions in the hotel. We also go through other staffing channels to recruit local staff.
Q: Once you staff positions, how do you deal with retention?
A: Anyone could come along and offer them more money but we find that they choose to stay with us because we provide a good training and a comfortable environment. We offer a casual style of service rather than being fixed and rigid.
Q: What is the make-up of the clientele at your Hongqiao branch?
A: When we originally set up, we thought our market mix was going to be 80% local, 20% international, but we’ve found out that the numbers are closer to 60/40%. I think [foreign clients] are attracted to our proximity to the industrial zones and the airport.
Q: How are you preparing for the Shanghai World Expo?
A: With our location here, we’re not convenient for the expo site, but we are convenient for the gateway which will bring guests in. Our services will include running shuttle buses from the hotel to the expo site, so guests will be able to stay here and get to the site quite easily.
Q: What trends are you seeing in the hotel market now?
A: The big boom in the market right now is in economy hotels. And while that boom is happening, the four- and five-star brands are expanding. China already has a huge predominance of five-star hotels, [so] I think the four-stars are going to do quite well as Chinese people become more affluent.